Saturday, 21 January 2012

The view from my other window

Got good news on Wednesday.  The doctors are now happy with the way the bone is healing, and over the next six weeks I am to gradually get used to walking without the cast - indoors at home for an hour or so a night to start with, until by the end of February I just need it when out doors.  After that I should finally be back on both feet - wearing matching shoes at last!

So that's the second week back at work done.  Due to demands for space, I'm back at my own desk on the top floor from Monday.  Will mean I'm back doing all my duties bar carrying stuff and running around between offices.  Still working shorter hours to avoid rush hour though.

I've been arriving home as it just starts to get dark, and the first couple of nights I spotted a bright star in the south west and wondered what it was.  A quick bit of research and I realised it was Jupiter, and on Saturday night we dug out the binoculars and had a good look.  Even with an old pair of army field glasses I was able to play about with the magnification to get a good view of the planet, and a fleeting glimpse of one of the moons.  As the night wore on, it swung round until it was in the western sky, and we could look at it out the bedroom window.

I don't know how many of you were watching Stargazing Live this week, but it was also mentioned that Saturn follows through slightly lower in the sky in the early hours, and should be visible in the west just before dawn.  Now I set my first alarm for 5.30am, and get up about 6, but since they gave out that info it's been cloudy every morning.  The binoculars or at the bedside ready for the first clear morning.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

The View From My Window

Just having a quick afternoon tea at the desk while Howard does the cleaning and replenishing the chickens’ bedding.  It is the most glorious weather.  Not a cloud in the cornflower blue sky, and the air is drenched with bird song.  The gulls are doing their snowdome impression over the lake, and starlings are gathering and chattering in the trees before finding something less organic to roost in overnight.

Now I’m back at work, I need to savour these moments.  I’m heading off just after sunrise, and arriving home as dusk fades to dark.  I’m so grateful that today the weather is so good and I can take it all in, even though I wish I was fit enough to enjoy it even more.

The last two nights have been clear, and we’ve woken to a proper frost.  My walk from the bus stop to my perilous front path has been guided by the dazzling bright evening star in the south western sky – Jupiter I think, and in the morning, just before the alarm goes off, the moon swings round to shine through our bedroom window, amplified by the sparkling frost on the garage roof.  It almost seems like winter has arrived.  Notwithstanding my injury, it was a long, slow Autumn.  And since the Solstice, the weather has been so mild it barely counted as Winter - until today.

Our clumps of Snowdrops were a little sluggish this year, but started flowering last week.  My hellebores are bursting forth.  Most are laden with buds, but my precious yellow one is already in full bloom.  I counted seven flowers fully open, and many more buds.  But there are flowers out elsewhere that really shouldn’t be.  One house I pass by on my revised walk to the bus stop (avoiding steep paths and slippery slopes) has a Thrift and a French Lavender in flower!  Granted, it is sheltered and south facing, but even so, it seems wrong, and something that should be saved for the summer. 

What little Summer we had came to a close earlier than has been usual of late, but a couple of sudden hot spells meant the start of Autumn proper took even longer.  When I broke my ankle on the 1st November, many trees were still in full leaf – late even by recent standards.  By mid December, most trees had shed their leaves, although a few, in particular Oaks, and the Hazel in next door’s garden stubbornly hold on to their foliage.  Now even those have gone.  Next door’s Hazel is now dripping with golden catkins, which sway as the assorted Blue Tits, Great Tits, Wrens, Dunnocks and Robins launch themselves off its branches towards our birdfeeders.

As over the past couple of months I’ve only been able to sit and watch a limited area, I’ve been able to really observe Autumn, even if only from a distance.  When I first became incapacitated, most trees were only just starting to turn gold.  The one tree ahead of the game was the Field Maple on the road to the lake.  It had gone from deep blue green to crimson, then a burnt coral orange.  By the time most other trees had started to turn colour, the Maple had shed its leaves.

My last trip out of London before my injury was to North Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.  Although a relatively short distance north, there was a distinct difference in the advance of the seasons.  The trees were a mass of reds, corals and gold.

The trees are only part of what I have been able to observe from the window.  The Canada Geese from the lake herald Spring and Autumn by flying in flocks rather than pairs.  The flocks started forming in August – worryingly early.  The Swifts had already disappeared, but this year the Swallows and House Martins stayed longer.  I even saw a bat flying near the houses in late October.  The redwings and fieldfares have arrived, though as yet not in the usual numbers.  I can’t get down to the lake to see if there have been any unusual migrant arrivals to add to the little Call drake who tries to mingle with the much larger Mallard males.  We’ll have to see if he has any affect on the population next year, like the white farmyard ganders who this year mated with some of the Canada females and produced hybrid offspring – Canada goose marked heads, but chunkier bodies and yellow legs.

I often see the Herons flying between the local lake and the ponds in parks further afield, and I see the flocks of gulls taking off from the lake and looking like a giant snow dome.  The Ring Necked Parakeets around here usually fly round in twos and threes – they are yet to be the nuisance they are in other areas, but last week I saw a flock well into double figures.  I’ve noticed more Blackbirds recently than I have for some time.  Howard has put more bird feeders out in the garden, which has brought in Robins, Blue and Great Tits in particular.  Yet to see anything unusual, but I didn’t get to see any Waxwings until the very end of last Winter.

And then, when it gets dark, I can hear the Tawny Owls, calling to each other as they fly between the trees.

Once I am fit and able to get outside under my own steam again, I will relish being able to get close to nature properly.  I look forward to watching Winter take hold, and then melt into Spring again.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Normal life is starting to be resumed

Started back at work last Tuesday after two months at home with my broken ankle.  Doctors aren't totally happy with the healing of the bone, but are giving me two weeks up and about, then if the bone is still slow to close up, I'm back in a plaster cast and on bed rest again.  Hopefully if I take care and rest when I can, I'll retain my freedom.

I'm working part-time (avoiding rush hours) whilst still in the plastic cast, and using a ground floor office for the same reason in case of fire evacuation.  Some of my usual duties involve running between offices with files and paperwork.  As this is not practical for me to do at the moment, my colleagues are doing this for me, and I'm covering  them in some of their tasks.

One of the best things about my return was knowing how much I was missed - not just by my immediate colleagues, but also by everyone from the canteen staff through to senior managers, who stopped to ask how I was and wished me well.

Because I'm still not mobile enough to rush around in the lunch hour, I have to make sure I take lunch in with me.  And due to the logistics of getting to and from a room with a microwave, for the foreseeable future it will have to be salad, sandwiches or soup in a flask.  This will hopefully save me some money over the next couple of months, which can be channeled into "productive" home based projects, such as more fruit trees and maybe later on this year adding more hens to the flock.

It's back to normal with the hens too.  After spending the late Autumn moulting, they are now all feathered up again and laying regularly.  We're starting to almost have a surplus of eggs, so this Saturday morning we had a six egg scramble for breakfast, and midweek Spanish omlettes are back on the menu, maybe even taking some in with salad for lunch.

Once I'm mobile I may lapse if I have errands to run, but it's a habit I want to keep.

I also want to set more time aside for writing.  I would normally take an overground train to work.  Quicker but I have to stand most days.  At the moment I'm taking the bus to the tube station, which is slower, but as it's near the start of the line I can get a seat in the morning.  I'm going to make sure I have a notebook with me and make good use of the travelling time.

I must admit I do find walking on my own quite tiring still, and I have to be very careful as the pavements are nowhere near level enough to walk without looking at the floor most of the way.

But as long as I'm careful and take my time, I'll be back on two feet by the Spring.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

I would start how I mean to go on, but.....

At least I'm starting to get more active.  Howard picked up the hire van on Wednesday, and we've got out and about every day since.  Nothing spectacular, just a little light shopping, but it's more than I've been able to manage for the past 2 months.  I get tired very quickly, so I'm viewing my return to work on Tuesday with a great deal of trepidation.  Not sure how I'll cope with the journey, and especially the crowds.

Still, much of the shopping has been garden related.  I now have a full complement of my chosen seed potato varieties, and will be rigging up the trays to start chitting them in due course.  This is the earliest I have ever seen seed potatoes in the shops.  I'm sure that most years they don't go on sale until late January, but I'm not complaining.

We're going with the usual varieties for the bulk crop at the allotment - Red Duke of York for the First Early, Yukon Gold for Second Early, Desiree for early Maincrop "big" potatoes and Pink Fir Apple for late Maincrop "fancy salad" potato.  We'll also be growing a few more in containers in the back garden in smaller quantities - Home Guard (first early), and Charlotte and Shetland Black (second early).  If we make it to any of the upcoming Potato Day events, we may well get a few more exotic varieties to try in small amounts.

We went to Ayletts Nursery Garden Centre near St. Albans for most of the potatoes as they sell the seed potatoes loose, with varying size bags at a set price for you to fill with as many or as few as you need.  Every year I fill the bags with a nice round number of tubers, only to find Howard has sneaked a few more in before we get to the checkout.  Anything over an amount that can be divided by 5 (the ideal number per row in the allotment beds) gets planted in a container, so nothing is wasted.

Also managed to get some more shallot sets.  I often find I have more success with shallots than with onions.  Maybe because the manner of growing lends itself better to being rolled on than a traditional onion.

Also managed to get some useful items of "kit" - a new minimum/maximum thermometer, as I intend to be more diligent in tracking the weather this year, some rather fetching lime green knee pads, in case I fall over and land on my back, and one of those shepherd's crook shaped metal stakes, for hanging a lantern outside the shed.

Did some more girly indulgent shopping too in the sales.  Before I broke my ankle, I treated myself to a couple of lovely metal pens from Paperchase.  It's this year's little step towards sustainability.  I decided it would be better to use one or two distinct pens I loved than just go through a mass of anonymous plastic pens.  OK, the refills are still made of plastic, but far less than a normal pen.  Makes writing stuff more of a "me time" thing too.  I got Howard one of their pens too, with an owl motif, which he now uses when a pencil isn't permanent enough.

I also now have a veritable muted rainbow of pairs of skinny legged trousers, as these are the style that fits under the plastic cast contraption (when they start looking shabby, they'll be perfect for gardening as there's no spare fabric to trip over)  more long socks for the same reason, and a couple more polo necked jumpers in case we have a cold snap.  Also found something close to a perfect bag for me - tan coloured, reasonably large with several useful pockets.  It also has decent size handles to go over my shoulder whilst wear a coat, AND a strap to go across the body, the most practical way for me to carry a bag right now.  OK - I have loads of bags.  But I have had some of those for several years and they do get a fair amount of use without being wigged completely.  I have another favourite bag, but it's impractical whilst I need both hands to balance.  And a copper coloured nail enamel.  Sitting around doing not much has meant my nails have stayed presentable.

We'll see how long that last once I'm up on my feet properly and gardening again.